“You’re telling me,” they’ll say, “that you don’t want kids? Ever?” They shake their head, maybe roll their eyes, and dismiss my words with a final, “You’ll change your mind later.”
But they’re wrong. Because when I responded with “No,” to their “Do you want kids when you get older?” this was not what I was telling them.
I was telling them that children listen. It only takes one bad day at work to wrongly take out your frustration on a child who would carry your angered words with them for the rest of their life.
I was telling them that children learn. They learn from those around them, that is: the kids who pick on them at school, the teachers who dismiss their cries, the parent who swears on the phone sometimes.
I was telling them that children remember. From your childhood, you might have a few good memories, and a few bad ones, or maybe all bad ones, or all good ones. And no one gets to pick and choose the ones they remember, because you don’t remember everything. So even if your parent brought you to museums as a child, to parks and to playgrounds, it’s possible all you’ll remember is that they were drinking from a funny-looking bottle all the while you were there.
I was telling them that even adults make the stupidest of mistakes, the most self-absorbed of decisions. Genuine misunderstandings, genuine slip-ups. But the day you forget to ask your child how their day went could be the day the girl with frizzy hair wouldn’t stop making fun of their freckles.
I was telling them that the day you, as a parent, equate your teenager’s argumentative behavior to their age rather than their feelings as a person, is the day you’ll fail to notice cuts on their thighs or bags under their eyes.
I was telling them that, no matter how much you love children, no matter how much you try to watch them, to shelter them, to follow your own parent’s footsteps or adamantly ignore them, it is inevitable that you will make mistakes.
And, most of all, I was telling them that I don’t trust myself enough to not make the bigger mistakes.
So I think, mostly, it was not I who misunderstood your question. Because, truthfully, I love kids, I feel like I understand kids, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate the gift of bringing life into the world.
It was only you who misunderstood my answer.